Renaissance Humanism vs. Modern Humanism

7 July 2016

The fundamental principles of modern humanism are parallel with ones from Renaissance humanism in that it emphasizes long lasting traditions and the power of the individual. These ideas are similar to the bases of Renaissance humanism, which are the revival of the classics and individualism. Modern Humanism is the product of long lasting practices and can be characterized by comparing it to the Renaissance’s revival of classical ideas. The article states that modern humanism is “the outcome of a long tradition”. It is based on previous ideas that have been passed down and adapted into new ones that pertain to the modern world.

This is similar to how the Renaissance grew from the exploration of previous ideas from the Greeks and Romans. The word Renaissance itself even means “rebirth”. From classical ideas, Renaissance humanists began to shape themselves and society. One example is a Renaissance writer Leonardo Bruni who took the idea of civilians taking part in government to develop civic humanism.

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Inspired by the classical Roman Cicero, a statesman and intellectual, civic humanists educated themselves not only to improve their mind but to serve their state as well.

The fact that modern humanism is based on traditions proves that it comes from Renaissance humanism. The modern humanist idea that “personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility” is very similar to previous ideas of civic humanism. With the freedom of mind gained from education, it is a civilians responsibility to serve society. Since the fundamental principles of Renaissance and modern humanism are the outcomes of long tradition it can be reasoned that both are based on previous ideas that date back to ancient times.

Beliefs of self improvement for the benefit for one’s society have been passed down through generations and have adapted to each time period it goes through. Modern humanist’s emphasis on art and it’s powers of transformation are similar to Renaissance humanist’s appreciation for art. Art for modern humanists creates “personal development and fulfillment” (6). This belief is closely related to the Renaissance’s ideas of art. Before the Renaissance and during the Middle Ages, art’s main focus was the Bible.

However, during the Renaissance, it changed into more secular art that used man as the focal point. These artists used the power of art to depict the changing ideals of individuals. The also began taking credit for their art instead working in obscurity. Even though it is based on a character from the bible, Michelangelo’s David depicts the ability of man and his unlimited potential. Through perfect muscles and poise, the artist used his work not only for his own fulfillment and glory, but also for the change of society.

Society transforms as the idea from the medieval world that religion is the greatest power changes to the Renaissance conviction that man is mighty as well. Artists had a sense of self as they began to work towards the glory and power of mankind. The statement in the article saying that humanism “affirms the worth, dignity, and autonomy of the individual” (1) further emphasizes the power art. A development from Renaissance art has an effect on the modern world as well. Both modern humanism and Renaissance humanism emphasize art for its transformative traits. Whether it’s for personal development or society’s development.

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